ARJUN'S CELIBATE EXILE
August 31, 2002
Des Plaines Mandir

Given in the Mahabharat, King Draupad (of Panchala) had arranged a special assembly and feat that would decide who would marry his daughter, Draupadi. Everyone at the assembly was focused on winning the beautiful Draupadi. Krishna Bhagwan, however, was looking at Arjun who was disguised as a wandering ascetic. Krishna Bhagwan revealed to His older brother, Balarama, "As sure as I am Krishna Bhagwan, that ascetic is Arjun." The impossible feat included standing in a balance, stringing a powerful bow, and then hitting the eye of a fish that was placed on a rotating wheel, but only by looking at its reflection from a pool of water placed below the contender. Though many warriors attempted the exercise, only Arjun was able to win Draupadi's hand in marriage. Arjun and the brothers escaped the angry warriors that were unsuccessful and took Draupadi to the Pandav's hut in the forest. (When the Pandavs and Kuntimata escaped the burning house of wax in Varnavata, they stayed concealed in the forests. Duryodhan had schemed the house of wax with Shakunimama to get rid of Yudhisthir, who as the eldest was the crown prince, and the Pandavs.)

At the hut, the Pandav's mother Kuntimata was preparing dinner and had no knowledge of the ordeal that had taken place. When she heard that a gift had been brought, she simply replied, "You brothers split it amongst yourselves." The brothers would never disobey the command of their mother, but how would they split a bride? With Krishna Bhagwan's consent, the five brothers each decided to marry Draupadi. By now, the Pandavs identity had been disclosed, and they were invited back to Hastinapur. Though the Pandavs were given the half of the kingdom that was barren (Khandavaprastha), by Krishna Bhagwan's powers, Vishvakarma (the divine architect) made it into the beautiful Indraprastha.

Some time later, Naradji, the wandering devotee of Lord Vishnu, visited the brothers. Referencing a story in which two inseparable demon brothers (Sunda and Upasunda) had fought to death over a celestial woman (Tilottama), Naradji suggested that a rule be kept between the five brothers. It was decided that Draupadi would stay with each brother alone in turn. During this time, if anyone intruded, he should remain celibate and live in the jungle for 12 years. All the brothers conceded to the arrangement. Everything went well until one day, Arjun was approached by a brahmin complaining that his cows were stolen by thieves. Arjun realized that as a member of the warrior caste, it was his duty to protect the brahmin and his cows, but his weapons were in Yudhishthir's room where Draupadi was also present. Stirred by the injustice, Arjun intruded and retrieved his weapons from the room. After successfully returning the cows to the brahmin, Arjun returned, but was dejected and asked for Yudhishthir's permission to leave for exile. When Yudhishthir tried to convince him that the rule was in fact made so that the older brothers would not take advantage of the younger brothers, Arjun became angry and left for the jungles immediately.

During Arjun's 12-year celibate exile, he married three women, the last being Krishna Bhagwan's own sister, Subhadra. He first met Ulupi, a Naga princess who convinced him to interpret the "celibate rule" as only pertaining to his first wife Draupadi, and also that he was in fact helping a distressed woman. After the birth of Iravat through Ulupi, Arjun continued his forest life. But again, he met, married, and had a child named Babruvahan to Chitrangada, daughter of the king of Manipur. When he finally reached Dwarka, Arjun met Subhadra. When Krishna Bhagwan saw that Arjun had a liking for her, he offered him the technique to marry Subhadra too (by abducting her)!

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